As I sat down to write my blog for this week, there were two events that I couldn’t get out of my head. On one end of the spectrum, there was the upcoming holiday – my absolute favorite time of year because we get to celebrate with friends and family. And on the other end of the spectrum, there was the tragedy that happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School – an unspeakable act that tore so many friends and families apart. As I thought about the contrast between these most joyous and most horrific events, one thought kept coming back me – I should be very, very grateful. Grateful that I could hug my two sons this weekend. Grateful that my loved ones are safe. Grateful that I will get to spend time with my friends and family very soon. It’s times of complete joy or profound sadness that remind us how precious life really is and how truly blessed we are. Yes, there are challenges we face, but when you take a moment, you realize there are many things to be thankful for.
If you attended our October summit in Colorado Springs, you had a chance to listen to an amazing speaker, Scott Hunter. Scott shared many important insights and messages with us, but the one that has stuck with me the most is the importance of intentionally focusing on what is right with our lives. Scott talked with us about the inner voice inside all of us that tends to fill us with worrisome and negative thoughts about things we haven’t done yet or haven’t done well enough. It’s something I know I struggle with, especially when I lay in bed at night waiting for sleep to come. But Scott also taught us an effective way to quiet that inner voice – by focusing on what we are grateful for. He had us take a few minutes to create a “gratitude list” of everything that we loved about our life. My gratitude list included the most important things in my life (my husband and our sons), meaningful things (my work and the opportunity to learn), silly things (the way my dog greets me), and even material things (call me shallow, but I love my iPad). It was probably the most enjoyable list I’ve ever made in my life.
But my gratitude list isn’t just a trivial thing that was fun for me to make, it also a useful tool that I refer to over and over again. Whenever I find myself starting to worry and consumed with negative thoughts, I read my gratitude list. It helps to quiet those negative thoughts and gets me focused on what I can do, rather than worrying about what I can’t. It’s amazing how easy it is to get caught up in what is going wrong and how challenging it is to focus on what’s going right. So this holiday season, I encourage you to take a moment and make your own gratitude list. You will probably be surprised by how many people, things, events, etc. for which you are truly thankful. And don’t forget to pull out this list whenever you find yourself focused too much on what’s going wrong. Take a moment to intentionally cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” and you can maintain that holiday spirit year-round.